Amazon unveiled wild new devices that can move within the home — and it might say a lot about the company's future plans
Amazonlaunched two new smart homeproducts that can move within the home: the Echo Show 10 and Ring Always Home Cam.
- The Echo Show 10 can reorient its display, camera, and speakers to face the user's direction, while the
RingAlways Home Cam is a mini securitydrone that can fly around the home.
- Both product could serve as a step toward Amazon's broader ambitions to build an Alexa-enabled home robot, as reports from Business Insider and Bloomberg have indicated.
- But the company will have to overcome serious
privacyconcerns along the way.
Amazon's presence in the home took a big leap forward this week, and not just because the online retail giant announced a completely redesigned Echo lineup and big updates to Alexa.
Amazon's smart home devices, whether it be an Echo speaker, Eero mesh router, or Ring security camera, have always remained as stationary fixtures inside (or outside) the home.
That's all starting to change, however, as Amazon announced the Echo Show 10, which can rotate based on the user's position, as well as the Ring Always Home Cam — a miniature drone capable of flying around the home.
The two products could pave the way for Amazon's future endeavors, such as the Alexa-enabled home robot the company is said to be working on. The new gadgets may help Amazon gain an understanding of how consumers receive smart home gadgets that move autonomously in the home or reorient themselves based on the user's location.
It could also potentially help Amazon refine such technologies before making a more sophisticated gadget like the "Vesta" robot it has reportedly been developing.
The new Echo Show 10 can move its screen and camera as the user changes position to keep him or her in frame during video calls. If you enable Alexa Guard — the feature that prompts your Echo to listen up for sounds and turn the lights on while you're away — the new Show can also periodically pan its camera around the room.
The Echo Show uses computer vision algorithms to understand when a person is in its scope of view, and owners can also manipulate the camera from the Alexa app to get a full view of the room. The new Echo Show can adjust its screen, camera, and speakers to face the user each time Alexa is triggered.
Amazon created the new Echo Show because it realized that people often aren't stationary when they're within their homes. As such, the company wanted to create a product that could cater to users as they move around the house and go about their daily routines, Miriam Daniel, Amazon's vice president of Echo and Alexa devices, said to Business Insider.
The company also used virtual reality environments to gain a better understanding of how users interact with screens and cameras when developing the Echo Show 10, Daniel said.
"Up until now, customers are adapting to the technology," Daniel said. "Whether it's holding a phone in your hand or angling it just right to take a selfie, or how you have to pause and put yourself within frame of the camera. And so we thought a little bit about how should technology adapt to humans."
The Echo Show 10 uses a combination of audio signals and computer vision to determine a user's location and adjust its position accordingly. The camera looks for a human shape and the direction from which the strongest audio signals in the room are coming from to determine the user's location, according to Daniel.
The ability to understand a person's location within a room and adjust accordingly sounds like it could be crucial for a home robot like the one Amazon is rumored to be working on.
Ring, on the other hand, is launching a new home security camera that can autonomously fly throughout the home. The $250 miniature drone, which is called the Always Home Cam and will be launching in 2021, follows a predetermined path that the user sets by carrying the device around the house. It's intended to help owners keep an eye on their homes without having to install multiple cameras throughout the house.
But both products are already raising some serious privacy woes. In particular, the idea of a tiny Amazon drone surveilling your home — as well as a stationary camera that swivels to follow you — has already been met with some concern and apprehension.
Big Brother Watch, the United Kingdom-based privacy advocacy group, called the Always Home Cam "Amazon's most chilling surveillance product yet."
Ring says its Always Home Cam only records while in flight and that its camera is blocked while it sits in its charging dock. The flying camera is also designed to be loud so that owners are aware that it's nearby. Amazon says the Echo Show 10 features a built-in camera shutter that can block its view anytime.
When the Echo Show 10 is scanning its surroundings, it immediately discards any imagery of human shapes within milliseconds after extracting the necessary data points, Daniel said. The imagery also never leaves the device.
How customers react to and embrace these new mobile gadgets could be critical when it comes to Amazon's future plans. The company is said to be working on a waist-high Alexa-powered robot that would be able to move around the home based on voice commands, according to reports from Bloomberg and Business Insider's Eugene Kim. The robot itself could cost around $1,000 and is said to be a top priority for the company.
Privacy advocates are already taking issue with the idea of a small drone that's only designed to make short, pre-determined trips of approximately five minutes each around your home. Imagine the backlash Amazon will likely face if it launches a bigger robot equipped with microphones, cameras, and wheels that can more freely roam around the house.
Regardless, the new products suggest that the path forward for Amazon's Echo and smart home products involves making them less stationary and more mobile — whether it raises privacy concerns or not.
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